The citizens of Planet Earth have been wearing masks for nearly two years now or rather have been forced to do that in view of the COVID-19 pandemic that seems to be extremely reluctant to help usher in the much-awaited unmasking of the Homo sapiens. There have been varying degrees of protests or complaints or deemed-hazards of wearing masks continuously. In a way the citizens are showing signs of an acute mask-fatigue which is actually very unfair to even hint at in view of the pandemic-fatigue experienced by the tirelessly working medical fraternity-particularly during the peak periods like the disastrous Second Wave in India. However, the angle of the citizens cannot be wished away, because this is very real; in some cases the mask-fatigue leading to huge protest marches/uprisings in the US or in some European countries like Germany. Therefore, it becomes our noble duty to analyze the factors while, of course, keeping our mask-sincerity securely in place.
All around us we’ve been getting used to seeing people masking themselves in most unique ways: some loosening it a bit lower so that the nose remains prominently exposed as if they’ve only now realized the importance of this organ as far as inhaling oxygen and exhaling nitrogen is concerned; some are still bolder wearing it like a necklace hanging below their chins; some even the more bolder keeping it in pocket or bags and wearing it the moment the law-enforcing authorities surface; and similar to this class some others do the same while entering shopping complexes or the like where ‘no mask, no entry’ signboard is prominently displayed and the moment they enter they quickly say to the sellers that they have the masks, no issues (in fact the mostly masked sellers or shopkeepers should not just smile understandingly at them, but should command, ‘if you have it, why not wear?’).
The elderly citizens have not been complaining much as they realize the undeniable fact that they are the most vulnerable chunk of the population to get infected. However, vaccination in the full required doses makes them a little bolder in starting to complain if not in not abandoning the masks altogether. They often refer to some doctors (we’re not aware if they were real or fictitious) advising them not to wear the masks while taking morning or evening walks as it may adversely affect the breathing process. But many elders including myself have not experienced any discomfort in taking the walks with the masks on. So, some of them do not wear it at all and some demonstrate the other styles of wearing like keeping the nose out or using it as a necklace.
The young male community happens to be the ultimate example in violating this mask-wearing business with absolute disdain, particularly after getting vaccinated. Their basic instinct of impressing the fairer opposites is a huge factor, because with half of their faces hidden they cannot at all afford to display their handsome characteristics as well as some other ‘impressive’ activities or habits. Their ‘brave’ and ‘chivalrous’ display is abundantly displayed on the streets, in the markets, in the parks or playing grounds and while riding the ‘brave-heart’ racing bikes, not only putting other lives in danger of being hit but also of spreading the disease. We call them the future of a country, but they miserably fail to understand their duty towards all in families or the other community outside or inside.
The young female community had shown tremendous interests, at the beginning of the pandemic age, in wearing the masks with many of them diligently searching for masks that match their dresses perfectly or actively taking up the most expansive pandemic-industry of mask-making. But, as in other cases, their interests got slowly and steadily replaced by mask-fatigue influenced by similar instincts of showing their beautiful countenances with full use of the cosmetics like the lipstick which got tremendously impacted by the sticking pandemic. So they have totally stopped wearing the masks, not even following the unique styles of wearing as all of these would adversely affect their beauty in varying degrees and would handicap them from creating the desired impressions all around.
There is a very crucial mask-fatigue causing factor that affects all of the communities mentioned: this being the prolonged summer thanks to global warming that leads to accumulation of sweat inside the masks and makes it extremely uncomfortable to wear continuously. But, why not carry more than one mask with you, remove it when unbearable, wipe you face with a sanitized handkerchief and wear the second mask; we rebut. There are huge quantities of economically affordable masks available in the market. Besides, the sweat-factor also comes in while traveling/going out, unnecessarily and crowding the trains or the metro trains or the flights or the buses or the markets; like when during the Durga Puja festival the ‘eat-only devotees’ crowded the fronts of the houseful restaurants in the Indian city of Kolkata in particular, waiting for hours at the dead of the night, and of course, not caring for the masks due to the seamless sweating or that they’d have to take it off anyway once getting inside to eat. There is a general agreement on this that one cannot eat with the masks on.
The governments or the authorities have been in the act of making the wearing of masks compulsory all the time with some having to impose penalties for violations. Authorities also observe mask-behavior patterns and order that ‘don’t wear the masks below your nose or like a necklace’. But unfortunately, the citizens of Planet Earth feel that ‘enough is enough’ and the ‘unmasking process’ must be ushered in by hook or by crook. In India with the Diwali festival looming ahead this mask-fatigue could, on the contrary, usher in another peak of the pandemic reversing the desired ‘unmasking’ process completely, God forbid. States of India always ban firecrackers during Diwali celebration, but allow ‘green crackers’ the ambiguity of a definition of which leads to the usual pollution and crowds with undaunted ‘fire-power’ on display as seen last year.
We must conclude with a disclaimer that no generalization is intended in this piece. In fact, a huge chunk of the population still follows the norms like wearing a mask very sincerely, including people in all the communities mentioned here. The only concern is that of the increasing numbers of the ‘unmasked Covidiots’ all over who put the norms-abiding population at risk. To assume a serious tone at the end, it is medically proved that vaccine jabs do not guarantee full protection from infection, but only reduce the serious type of the disease and hospitalization; but people with multiple other diseases and low immunity are still at high risk and the careless young people endanger their lives by carrying the virus and spreading it.
Chinmay Chakravarty is a professional specialized in the creative field with over two decades of experience in journalistic writing, media co-ordination, film script writing, film dubbing, film & video making, management of international film festivals and editing of books & journals. Proficient in providing professional services in these related fields. Was an officer of Indian Information Service and superannuated from the post of Director, Press Information Bureau, Kolkata in November, 2019. Published his first solo book ‘Laugh and Let Laugh’ in 2017 and his second book ‘The Cheerless Chauffeur and Other Tales’ in 2021.